Updated: Mar 5
Imagine you are 9 years old and in 4th grade. It is a weekend in the summer. You are on your way to a sleepover birthday party.
All your friends are there to run around the yard, yell, jump, and laugh. After a game of kick-the-can, the sun is setting. The cake has is gone and it is time for bed. Everyone gathers into their sleeping bags.
The next few hours will be a tug of war between parents trying to get you to sleep and the kids doing all they can to stay up. Does this seem familiar to your childhood? Do you have a child who may host an event like this in the future?
Now imagine another bedtime ritual. Instead of quick lights out, someone is there to gather everyone together. This may be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or neighbor of the birthday child.
They have a steady gaze and don't need to raise their voice when they speak. Even over 4th graders on sugar.
With a few greetings and jokes, they settle the rowdy crowd. Then they begin in with an old tale, “set not too far from here and a long long time ago.”
A few kids might protest at the beginning. But those are the kids who will be blurting out worried questions when the story is suspenseful. At the end of the tale, a few children have already fallen asleep. The rest lay pondering the adventure that has unfolded in their minds.
If you are anything like me, this is likely not a familiar ending to the special evenings of your childhood.
My techniques, tricks, and catalog of stories continue to grow. But it was not always this way. I only have discovered the joys of storytelling as an adult. It was as simple as witnessing a caring elder tell a folktale to a crowd of adults and children not too long ago.
Storytelling is an art form that takes years to cultivate and improve. but getting started is rather simple. Here are a few things you can do to become the beloved keeper of stories in your family or community.
5 techniques to bring storytelling to your child's life
1. Find a story that speaks to you, read it over and over again.
There are resources all over the library and the internet. Search a theme, country, or even an animal character you hope to highlight.
2. Search for and create an audio recording of the story, listen to it over and over again.
There are many podcasts and Spotify storytelling channels. This is a good chance to hear a practiced storytellers cadence. Can’t find a specific story from an old book you found? Your phone has an excellent microphone to record yourself reading.
3. While listening or reading the story, take down shorthand notes of the events as they unfold.
Keep in mind the patterns that arise and major plot changes. You will forget some details as you start out with a new story but once you have it, you can layer in more overtime.
4. Gather your audience and recite the story. Release the idea that you need to do something for a large crowd for it to be meaningful, 1 or 2 listeners is all you need. Keep in mind the setting as well. Bedtime is a classic for stories but what about as you sit by the river? Running water is an excellent backdrop.
5. Practice and Repeat.
My daughter has heard “Jumping Mouse,” over 10 times. She is also one of my first audiences for any new story that I find. You will be surprised at how forgiving an audience of children is. Even to say “forgiving,” is too much, they won’t even know you made a mistake.
Each time the story is told it will change. There will be new ways to add embellishments, animations, sound effects, and details. But do not put much pressure on yourself. It does not take much to leave a group of 9-year-olds or adults satisfied and wanting more.
Are you ready to enjoy the full attention of your children without the use of electronic gadgets? And then be asked my favorite question, “did that REALLY happen?”
That is the way it was told to me.